Friedman also hosts trade shows every year. “We always try to make it to the trade shows. The manufacturers come in. It’s two or three hours in the evening and they serve re- freshments. It’s nice,” said Atherholt, who appreci- ates Friedman’s personal touch. “The corporate branch is my branch, and I know a lot of the people there by first name. They treat me—a company my size—the same as if I were the biggest contractor in the valley. I can talk to the president if I have a prob- lem, no appointment needed. We do a ton of business together.”
Bell Electrical Supply:
Credit and Liens Like Friedman, Bell Electrical Supply hosts a broad range of product training programs, but the course that sets Bell apart in the marketplace is a half-day financial management class led by its credit manager. Targeted to small and mid-sized contractors, the class focuses specifically on lien law and preliminary notice. “Lien laws can be confusing. We have people taking the class more than once,” said Burt Schraga, CEO. “I attend every one of the classes. I tell them, ‘We can’t give you a legal opinion, but here’s chapter and verse right out of California code.” Mike Stewart, owner of Biltmore Electrical, is one grate- ful Bell customer: “I’ve been in business since 1981, and it used to be that no one tried to get away without paying. It’s not like that anymore. Now my policy is: For any new cus- tomer with a job more than $3,000, I send a preliminary lien notice.” “A lot of guys have no idea what liens are all about, but I’ve never seen anyone else presenting this information,” Schraga reported.
Ideal Supply’s Business Acumen The contractors served by Ideal Supply’s electrical division and the utilities and manufacturers in its industrial divi- sion benefit from training similar to the classes provided by Friedman and Bell—i.e., manufacturer product training, health and safety, the company’s e-commerce system.
The customers served by Ideal’s third division, which is automotive, are a unique bunch. In partnership with NAPA (National Automotive Parts Association), Ideal specializes in serving auto repair shops, said Sherri Coombs, supervi- sor, Business Support Services. Rob Ingram, president of Eldon Ingram Automotive, shared his experience: “Ideal is like no other supplier out there: It provides training. A lot of parts companies, all they care about is selling you parts. Ideal does not do that. It wants you to succeed. If not for Ideal Supply encouraging me to take the training, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Training changed everything for us.” There are multiple players in this training supply chain: Ingram is Ideal’s customer. NAPA, Ideal’s supply partner, contracts with Total Automotive Consulting & Training (TACT), a training company owned and operated by Dave Meunier, another successful Canadian auto repair shop owner. “Every month, our statement from Ideal shows the NAPA programs we used, including TACT training,” said Ingram, explaining the linkages. Dave Lange, Ideal’s assistant automo- tive sales manager, man- ages the training events. Two specific TACT programs have proven invaluable to Ingram: the Shop Improvement Program (SIP), a three- day seminar, rather like a condensed Business Management 101, custom- tailored to the auto repair industry, and ProShop, ongoing training and support for auto repair shop owners and man- agers at 10 one-day meetings a year. “SIP changed everything for me—the presentation, the tools, and the systems and procedures explained,” Ingram said, noting that the Rack Workflow system—think of it as “command central”—revolutionized the company’s opera- tions, adding systematic communication, documentation, and efficiency while affording service advisors more time with customers. As Bell, Friedman, and Ideal are proving, customer training can be one of the services that positions one dis- tributor above all the others. ;
Niehaus, LEED GA, is the president and founder of Commun-
ication by Design ( communicationbydesign.net). She can be
reached at 314-644-4135 or Jan@CommunicationByDesign.net.
Lien laws can be confusing. We have people taking the class more than once. I attend every one of the classes. I tell them, ‘We can’t give you a legal opinion, but here’s chapter and verse right out of California code.’”
—Burt Schraga, Bell Electrical Supply